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ZIMBABWE’S brutal crackdown on protests over the country’s faltering economy has continued despite warnings from President Emmerson Mnangagwa promising violence against civilians will not be tolerated.
He cut short a trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos after facing down criticism for being out of the country as security forces went on the rampage through Zimbabwe’s poor neighbourhoods.
The Zimbabwe Human Rights Commission accused soldiers of “systematic torture” after hundreds were reported to have been arrested in a wave of repression that escalated after a three-day national strike last week.
The Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions said its leader Japhet Moyo had been arrested for his role in co-ordinating last week’s action, which followed a 40-day strike by doctors and teachers over poverty pay and lack of resources.
He appeared in court today but pleaded not guilty to charges of inciting Zimbabweans to protest against a sharp rise in fuel prices. If found guilty Mr Moyo faces 20 years in prison.
His lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa alleges “a coordinated, deliberate orchestrated attempt to subvert justice.” According to reports more than 600 arrests have been made during the crackdown with most of them denied bail.
The ongoing brutality asks questions over Mr Mnangagwa’s control over the Zimbabwean military which helped bring him to power after former leader Robert Mugabe was ousted following 37 years in power in November 2017.
Reports on the ground suggest that beatings are continuing with the Zimbabwean Human Rights Commission claiming their investigations found that “armed and uniformed members of the Zimbabwe National Army and the Zimbabwe Republic Police instigated systematic torture.”
The commission confirmed reports that security services had entered houses at night, dragging people out and torturing them before taking them to prison.
“The deployment of the army in quelling civilian disturbances leads to loss of life and serious bodily injuries and other human rights violations, yet the government continues to make such deployments,” it said in a statement.
Opposition politicians are among those that have been detained, including five MPs from the Movement for Democratic Change, which the government claims is responsible for the unrest.
Party spokesman Morgen Komichi slammed Mr Mnangagwa’s promise to investigate the actions of the security services.
“We don’t trust his word. We don't regard him as an honest leader,” he said.
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